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Thumb Sucking Information

Children use thumb sucking as a soothing mechanism and is very common, up to 95% of infants suck their thumbs at some point during their development. So, if you have a thumb sucker, should you be concerned?

The truth is that in the majority of cases, there is no cause for worry. However, it is important to remain vigilant about your child’s behavior and its potential to impact their oral health.

What is considered normal thumb-sucking behavior?

For most younglings, thumb sucking begins at an early stage of development, often inside the womb. For an infant, sucking is an essential reflex that serves to acquire nutrition. For young ones, sucking offers natural security and soothing. This explains why many children express this behavior while falling asleep.

Most children grow out of the habit of thumb sucking on their own. But for the few children who continue sucking their thumb when their permanent teeth go into the eruption stage, it is time to put effort into breaking the habit.

What signs should I watch for?

Observe the way your child sucks their thumb. The more aggressive the thumb sucking, the higher the likelihood that it will cause damage.

How can I help my child quit thumb sucking?

The guidelines below offer advice to assist your child in breaking the thumb sucking habit:

  1. Remain positive and supportive during this important transition. Praise or reward not sucking their thumb rather than punishing the habit.
  2. Place a physical barrier between the thumb and the mouth at night, a sock or band-aid usually works great. Reinforce that this is not a punishment but a tool to help them break the habit.
  3. Keep a reward chart, encouraging your child to place a sticker for each day they don’t suck their thumb. Once the child meets a milestone such as a week without sucking, reward them with a prize. This encourages your child to be an integral part of the process.
  4. If your child uses thumb sucking to deal with anxiety, address the anxiety first.
  5. Observe your child’s thumb-sucking triggers and think of ways to avoid these triggers.
  6. Communicate the consequences of extended thumb sucking.

During the entire process, always remind yourself that your child needs to feel your support and empathy while breaking this habit.

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